A top choreographer and international dance star has told of his determination to keep his latest show on the road – despite a shock cancer diagnosis.
Thomas Michael Voss, who has orchestrated routines for some of the biggest names in showbusiness, said his health problems had strengthened his resolve ahead of his most ambitious project to date.
When London News Online met Mr Voss in October last year, he was making preparations for a ground-breaking performance at the Resolution dance festival, setting out to defy stereotypes around disability and masculinity.
But since then he has been in and out of hospital after being diagnosed with a plasmablastic lymphoma.
Despite being midway through a lengthy course of chemotherapy and with his health still hanging in the balance, Mr Voss is getting back to work.
In an exclusive interview, he told London News Online how his cancer diagnoses had made him more determined than ever to finish what he started.
“This life-changing experience has shown me how precious time can be, sometimes we do not have time even though we think we do,” he explained.
“It made me realise how important it was for this project to be done – it could be the last thing I ever do.”
Mr Voss, who lives in Parsons Green, has worked on pop videos for the likes of Mariah Carey, Lily Allen and Craig David, as well as a long list of theatrical productions over the course of an illustrious professional career.
In the autumn, the 43-year-old ended a West End run working with a star-studded cast on the European stage premiere of F Scott Fitzgerald’s final novel The Last Tycoon.
But his latest venture – Quaestio – has been a deeply personal project from the start.
Inspired partly by his own experiences of playground bullying, the carefully choreographed performance aims to break down barriers and challenge stereotypes.
The cast includes a company of 10 dancers whose movements follow the style of one disabled performer, Joshua Robertson, who suffered spinal chord injuries after a motorbike accident.
Mr Voss said he was aiming to flip conventional expectations by exploring the artistic beauty of Joshua’s limited physical capabilities and allowing him to take the lead.
“It’s about the question of, ‘what happens if you don’t fit in?’,” he said.
“Why is it that we still feel so uncomfortable around disability? Are we really all-inclusive or are we just ticking boxes?”
During his career, the German-born dancer has used the medium to take on a series of taboo subjects – from research projects examining the effects of dementia to encouraging the elderly to try out on the dancefloor.
While the cancer has threatened to derail the Quaestio performance, which is due to take place at the festival on February 1, Mr Voss is not allowing the complications of treatment to affect his professionalism.
“Some days I can forget that I’m ill and others I wake up and feel unable to get out of bed,” he added.
“But I am trying to keep a normal life as much as possible. My main goal is my work – I do not want to have that interfered with. I am determined to make this happen.”
The show has helped him to avoid becoming depressed and stagnant, he said – and it is keeping his mind off the cancer.
“Dancing is my life and I am fulfilling my dream every day. It makes me happy and hopefully that might help me get better, and stay better for longer.”
Mr Voss is appealing for people to donate towards Quaestio and is looking for community or church halls that could be used as rehearsal space. He is on Twitter – @FosseyBear – and more information is available on his website – www.tmvoss.co.uk